Follow Your Interests and Build on Your Strengths

From Rev. Jeremy Simons
March 4, 2014

In his recent book “David and Goliath,” Malcolm Gladwell makes the distinction between what he calls “capitalization learning” and “compensation learning.”  In capitalization learning you follow your interests and build on your strengths. Most people enjoy this kind of learning and do it at every opportunity. Compensation learning, however, is something that we avoid if at all possible. It is learning that is forced on us by the necessity of compensating for some weakness that we have or for some situation in which we find ourselves. It is the kind of learning that people with disabilities and those in difficult circumstances do all the time to function in the world. But it is learning that people who are gifted and comfortable seldom do. Gladwell states that compensation learning is immensely valuable to people who can do it successfully. He says, “those who can are better off than they would have been otherwise, because what is learned out of necessity is inevitably more powerful than the learning that comes easily.” (p. 113)

        When we, or people we know, are going through challenging events, the things that we learn in our efforts to compensate can apparently be more valuable than we realize. A disproportionate number of very successful people, such as business or political leaders, are people who have struggled with significant challenges in their lives, such as having dyslexia or suffering the loss of a parent at an early age. Whether it is the rigors of an unusually long and snowy winter, going without electricity, or experiencing failure, sickness or loss, the compensations that we make in order to cope can have hidden benefits. 

        The Writings explain that people go through alternating states of hardship and better times as part of the process of regeneration, and that this goes on forever. They say:

“Without changes like those of summer and winter as regards things of the will, and like those of day and night as regards things of the understanding, he is in no way perfected and made more happy. In the next life however people’s changes are like those of summer and winter in temperate regions and like those of day and night in springtime.” Arcana Coelestia 935

With that in mind, hopefully the weather will begin to improve now that we are in March. Daylight Savings Time starts this Sunday and I’m sure that the things that we have learned in our efforts to compensate for this long winter will soon bear fruit

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